Ginger is a remedy that is gaining considerable fame and more and more people are choosing it to prepare fragrant infusions capable of stimulating the immune system. But is it really so? Can ginger really strengthen our defenses and protect us from attacks by viruses and bacteria? The study we are talking about today answers this question. The research can be consulted online and was published in the scientific journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research by a German team from the Leibniz-Institut für Lebensmittel-Systembiologie an der Technischen Universität München (Andersen et al, Mol Nutr Food Res, Dec 2022).
Ginger, only a spice or a powerful natural remedy?
Ginger is pleasantly scented, with a pungent aroma reminiscent of fresh lemon but with a touch of spiciness. More and more people are using ginger to prepare infusions but also as an ingredient to flavor fish or vegetable dishes. It is estimated that, only in Germany, the import of this root has quadrupled in the last ten years. Among the main reasons why ginger is so well known and used is certainly the fact that ginger is believed to be able to stimulate the immune system. However, until now it had not been possible to fully clarify the properties of ginger. Above all, it was not known whether ginger, taken in an amount compatible with a healthy, varied and balanced diet, could have any health benefits. To answer these questions, Germanic scientists elaborated the research we are talking about today.
Ginger stimulates the immune system, the study
Scientists started from the results of a previous study performed by the same research team. In particular, the scientists had observed that, after drinking about a liter of ginger tea, it is possible to detect the presence in the blood, already 30 minutes after taking it, of compounds contained in ginger, especially the substance called 6 gingerol. 6 gingerol is the active ingredient responsible for the spiciness of ginger since this substance interacts with a receptor located on the surface of nerve cells. But, as some studies have shown, this same receptor also appears to be on white blood cells. Scientists were first able to detect the receptor on neutrophils. Neutrophils make up the majority of white blood cells and are our first line of defense in case of viral and bacterial infection. Then, as a next step, the researchers studied in the laboratory the effect of 6 gingerol when it comes into contact with neutrophil receptors. Well, it has emerged that even low concentrations of 6 gingerol, such as those that can be found in the blood after drinking a liter of ginger tea, are able to alert the cells of the immune system. These activated immune cells can react with 30% stronger action in case of viral and bacterial infection. This result was tested in the laboratory by simulating the infection.
Research is still in its infancy and more work will have to be done, but today's results certainly show that even a small amount of the active ingredient contained in ginger can help us strengthen our immune defenses and fight viruses and bacteria. This amount can be achieved by consuming a moderate amount of ginger, even in the form of herbal tea. Ginger tea is prepared like this. Bring a liter of water to the boil, remove from the heat and add 3-4 centimeters of fresh ginger cut into thin slices. Let stand for 15-20 minutes, then drink. You can eat ginger slices after drinking herbal tea!